Queenstowners say Housing Trust’s a must

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A fired-up Lake Hayes Estate couple is calling for local families to lobby Government to help an affordable housing group that’s under threat. 

Brin Willows and his wife Omea say they wouldn’t be living in the Wakatipu if it weren’t for the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, which enabled them to build a four-bedroom home here this year. 

The trust – which has helped 35 households buy their own properties through a shared-ownership programme in the last two years – may not be considered a charity from next month. 

The shock move could see dozens of other hard-working families being forced out of Queenstown in the future because of the high cost of housing. “With salaries and the cost of living here – that’s what pushes young families out of the area,” Brin says. 

“It’s the community that stands to lose – not just individuals.” 

The Charities Commission last week told the trust that its activities are inconsistent with the Commission’s registration guidelines and is likely to be de-registered. 

However, Brin, who moved to Queenstown 10 years ago from South Africa, plans to write to Housing Minister Phil Heatley about the situation and is urging others to do the same. 

“I challenge all other families who are here – either with the housing trust or on the waiting list – to appeal as well,” says the operations manager for Cromwell-based Goldfields Jet. 

He and Omea, a legal executive, say the shared ownership deal means they can have a manageable mortgage and do low-budget activities in the resort with kids Kailin, 4, and Jaxon, 2, without worrying about financial pressures.
“If it wasn’t for the housing trust you’d almost guarantee that everyone they’ve helped wouldn’t be here or wouldn’t be contributing to the local economy,” Brin says. “We’d probably be in Australia, to be honest.” 

Omea says they can’t understand why the Commission made the bombshell decision. 

“They’ve not actually looked at the big picture and looked at how the housing trust is working for the people – it’s not a money-making scheme, it’s here to help support communities.” 

Since setting up in 2006, QLCHT has received about $3.5 million from the Department of Building and Housing.
If the trust is struck off, losing its charitable status will mean it must pay 33 per cent tax on income, including government grants – resulting in having one-third less money for future housing projects, chairman David Cole says. 

The Charities Commission’s decision “is no reflection of the trust and the good work it is doing in the community to solve the affordability issues in Queenstown”, Cole says. 

None of the scheme’s current homeowners will be affected and nor will a further 22 homes in the pipeline, Cole adds.